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 Fighting Black Cloaks

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Seeker Sam
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PostSubject: Fighting Black Cloaks   Fri Nov 11, 2016 10:01 pm

 
Author’s Note:
Thanks for reading and making comments! I’m a newbie writer, and I appreciate all the help. This is the first draft of the story, so I have kept a few of my own notes littered through the story and have kept words I think might be unnecessary or cliché in blue font. I also have some questions for readers/reviewers about specific issues at the end of the story – you’ll see them at the end.
OK, so without further ado:  
 
Once upon a time there was a little girl. She was happy. She loved life.
 
The girl’s best friend was the White Wizard. She had other friends too, but he was her best friend. They did everything together.
 
The White Wizard was a master artist, craftsman, and musician. He was also silly and fun. On Monday, they painted. On Tuesday, they doodled. On Wednesday, they whittled wood. On Thursday they tootled on flutes. On Friday, they sculpted. On Saturday, they flew kites. On Sunday, they danced around in slippery sock feet and walked by the ocean at sunset.
 
The White Wizard went with the girl while she played outside. He cheered at soccer games, laughed at jokes, clapped at gymnastic routines, and joined in with hopscotch. When the girl’s friends had to go in for supper, the White Wizard walked her home. After Mommy tucked her in and turned out the light, the White Wizard sat in a chair by her bed and watched over her all night.
 
She was never alone.
 
Then one night, a terrible thing happened. The girl woke up, and the White Wizard was gone.
 
The girl lay back down and waited. She waited for a long time. She was almost asleep when she heard a noise. She sat up. The air was cold. A bearded figure came toward her. He wore a hood and his cloak swished as he walked.
 
“White Wizard?” She asked. “Is that you?”
 
He opened his arms. The girl sprang into his hug. But as her fingers closed around him, she felt cold scales.
 
It was not the White Wizard.
 
The girl leaped back into bed. “You’re not the White Wizard!” She cried. “Who are you?” 
 
The hooded figure crossed his arms. “I am a knight,” he said. “I’ve come to give you a present.” The little girl relaxed. She liked presents. “Close your eyes.” Said the knight. She closed her eyes. Something slipped around her neck.
 
“What is it?” She asked. “Can I open my eyes?”
“You may.”
 
The girl opened her eyes and screamed. The knight had taken off his cloak and had wrapped it around her shoulders. Without it, she saw what he looked like underneath. The knight was tall and thin, with spikes down his scaly back. He wore a black crown and his eyes glowed like coal.
 
“Enjoy it.” Said the knight. Then he vanished into curls of grey smoke.
The smoke stung her eyes.  
“Hey!” Coughed the girl. “I don’t want your cloak!”
 
There was only one problem. She couldn’t take it off.
 
 
The Cloak was still on when she woke up in the morning. The girl tugged at it, but it wouldn’t give. As she rolled out of bed, she noticed a present sitting on her bedside table. It was a box wrapped in golden paper with a card.
 
The note read: “Turn me on – let’s talk. Love from the White Wizard.”
 
The girl tore open the package. Inside was a hand-held radio. She reached for the “on-switch,” then stopped. The card said it was from the White Wizard, but what if it wasn’t? What if it was the Evil Knight trying to trick her again?
The girl didn’t turn on the walkie-talkie. Instead, she put it on the table beside her bed and got ready for school.
 
The Black Cloak stayed on all day... and the next day, and the next day, and the next... With each passing day, it felt heavier. And the White Wizard did not come.
 
She kept having bad dreams. Monsters chased her down corridor; she was falling down a dark tunnel; spiders invaded her room.
One night, the she awoke and lunged for the lamp on her bed-stand. There was a crash. Was it the lamp? The girl felt for it more gently, and flicked it on. On the floor, smashed to bits, was the little radio. She looked at the broken pieces and bits of wire, and cried.
 
The girl found it hard to concentrate at school. She was tired all the time. She made mistakes at math, and her artwork flopped. Tommy won the math prize that week. A new girl called Mary-Beth painted a butterfly so real, it almost flew off the page. Teacher said it was fantastic.
 
            That night, she heard a voice.
“You’re stupid,” it said, “and you suck at art!”
The girl sniffled.
            The next day, she made more mistakes; the next, even more.
“You’re stupid,” the voice kept saying, “You’re the stupidest girl in the class.”
 
            The girl covered her face and wept.
Because, if she did badly at math, then she would get a bad report card. And if she got a bad report card, then Mommy and Daddy would be disappointed. And if she kept getting bad grades, people would think she was stupid... Maybe she was stupid! And if she were stupid, she would never become a famous architect! 
 
            Around and around went the thoughts. They flew so fast, her whole head buzzed.
As she listened to the voices, something strange happened. Colours started disappearing. The grass no longer looked green; the balls they played with at school weren’t red; the bananas Mommy bought weren’t yellow. Colour leaked out of life until everything was black and white.
 
Her friends stopped playing with her.
“You’re not fun to hang out with,” one said.
“You’re a cry-baby,” sneered another.
 
The girl went inside.
She didn’t feel like playing. She didn’t feel like drawing. She didn’t feel like doing anything.
 
            Mommy and Daddy were worried. Mommy made the girl’s favourite food, but she wasn’t hungry. Daddy took her to the doctor, but she said nothing was wrong.
 
            One afternoon, Daddy came home from work late. He was smiling.  
“I got you an early birthday present.” Daddy said.
“No!” She cried. “I don’t want any presents.”
“Are you sure?”
She heard the sound of scampering claws. A dog ran to her and licked her face.
“His name is Barnabas,” said Daddy.
Barnabas was yellow and wore an orange bandana around his neck.
He was beautiful.
 

 
Barnabas was waiting at the gate when she came home from school. He was always happy to see her. At nighttime, he slept on her bed and kept the worst voices away. When the girl woke up from a bad dream, Barnabas was there. She stroked his warm fur and listened to his slow breathing until she fell back to sleep.
 
On Monday, the girl had a bad day. The Black Cloak was heavy and it got tangled up at school. Barnabas’ day hadn’t been fun either. Daddy had taken him to the vet for his shots.
“But two good things happened,” said the dog, “Mommy cuddled me, and I chased a black cat out of the yard. That was fun. What were two good things about your day?”
The girl thought about it.
“I saw a rabbit on my way to school and Mommy packed me chocolate pudding for lunch.”
“Is there any left?” Asked Barnabas.
 
On Tuesday, the girl came home. She was crying.
“How was school today?” Asked Barnabas.
“Mary-Beth painted a better picture than me today,” she sniffed. “She always paints better. I spilled water on mine.”
“I’m sorry,” said Barnabas, nuzzling her hand, “it’s frustrating when something you worked hard at gets ruined. I spent the afternoon digging a beautiful hole, and your Daddy filled it in.”
The girl laughed.
Barnabas licked her salty face. The Black Cloak loosened a little.
 
             On Wednesday, the other kids played soccer outside after school.
Barnabas met the girl at the gate.
 “Do you want to go play outside?” He asked. “You love soccer!”
“I don’t feel like it,” she said.
“Well, how about playing with just me in the back yard? Your Mommy just bought me a red ball, and it’s a beaut!”
            The dog showed it to her proudly. It was red and slimy.
 The girl smiled and threw it for him in the backyard.
The Black Cloak slipped off for a few minutes.
 
 
            On Thursday, Barnabas found the girl crying in the kitchen.
“What’s wrong?” He asked.
“I burned the peanut-butter cookies, and Granny yelled at me. Now the whole house smells like smoke. I never do anything right.”
            “Everybody makes mistakes sometimes,” said Barnabas. “Today I bit my own tail. I thought it was a snake.”
The girl smiled.
“Poor Barnabas,” she said.
The dog wagged his sore tail. He nudged the back door open with his head. The smoke slithered out. Then Barnabas went to the trash and ate all the cookies – even the burnt ones.
 
On Friday, the girl had a cold. Her nose ran and her head hurt. Mommy said she could stay home from school. The Black Cloak felt heavier than ever.
“I hate being sick,” she said.
“It sucks,” agreed Barnabas, “but you’ll feel better tomorrow. Daddy had this cold yesterday, and he feels better today, right?”
“Right,” said the girl.
“And chicken soup is nice. I like it.”
“I noticed,” she said, smiling.
            The Black Cloak loosened a little. She tugged at it.
“Why won’t this thing leave me alone?”
“It slipped off yesterday while we played cards, remember?” Said Barnabas.
“Well, why does it keep coming back?” She sniffed. “I hate it!”
“I hate it too,” said Barnabas, “but you have to keep on fighting it.”
“With what?”
“With the truth,” he said, “and if that doesn’t work, just yell: Stop! Go on – try it!”
 
The girl looked up. Voices swirled around her head. They swirled, and whirled, and spun around her like a tornado.
“STOP!” She yelled.
The voices stopped spinning, but one rocketed toward her.
 
“Your friends don’t like you!” it said.
“That’s not true!” She shouted.
The Black Cloak loosened.
 
“You can’t sing!”
“Yes I can!” the girl sang.
             The Black Cloak slipped a bit more.
“It’s working!” Cried Barnabas. “Keep going!”
 
“You’re ugly!” Sneered a voice.
“Daddy thinks I’m beautiful – he said so this morning,” the girl told it.
            The Black Cloak slid onto the floor. 
 
“You’re no good at art!”
“Yes I am!”
The Black Cloak lifted into the air. It hit the wall and crumpled in the farthest corner of the room.
 
            “That’s it!” Barked Barnabas. “You see – the Black Cloak has to do what you say!”
            The girl grinned. Then she and Barnabas played crazy eights, and he ate all her toast.
 
 
            On Saturday morning, the girl leaped out of bed. The Black Cloak was still in the corner.
“Happy Birthday!” Yelled Barnabas, “Do you want to go to the park?”
 
“It’s probably raining outside,” said a voice.
The girl frowned as the cloak slithered toward her.
“It might not be,” she replied, “and even if it is, I can still have fun in the rain.”
            The Black Cloak backed off.
 
            The girl opened the curtains and smiled. It was a beautiful day.
“Come on Barnabas!” She yelled, and they zoomed outside.
           
            She and Barnabas ran to the park. Mary-Beth was there with a soccer ball. She was crying.
            There was another Black Cloak nearby.
“What’s the matter, Mary-Beth?” Asked the girl.
“I came up here to practice soccer, but I can’t do it!” Sobbed Mary-Beth. “I’m too stupid!”  
            “You’re not too stupid to play soccer,” said the girl, “I’ll teach you!”
           
            She and Mary-Beth kicked the ball back-and-forth for an hour. Then the other kids showed up.
“What are you doing?” They asked.
“We’re playing soccer,” the girl said, “want to join?”
           
            They played soccer all morning. At lunchtime, the girl’s family came to watch. Daddy brought a cooler; Mommy brought sandwiches; and Granny brought chips. They had a picnic lunch outside. Then there were presents and cake and lots of games. It was a wonderful day.  
 
On Sunday, the girl went for a walk along the beach with Barnabas. The sun beamed down, and the water sparkled like fireworks. The Black Cloak floated far behind. She closed her eyes and ignored it, breathing in the salty air.
“I thought I’d find you here.”
The girl jumped.
“White Wizard!”
She leaped into his arms.
            Then she let go very quickly.
 
“Where have you been?” The girl demanded. “Why did you leave me?”
           
She told him all about the Evil Knight and the Black Cloak.
The White Wizard nodded sadly.
“I know,” he said, “I was watching.”
“Why didn’t you do anything?”
 
            The White Wizard looked down at her angry face.
“My love,” he said gently, “I gave you the radio, and when it broke, I sent you Barnabas.”
            She looked down at the dog. Barnabas’ tail thumped the sand.
“He’s been helping you all along, hasn’t he?”
“Yes,” said the girl, “I wasn’t sure the walkie-talkie was really from you. How do I tell?”
“All my gifts are good,” he replied.
 
            The girl had another question.
“White Wizard, if you were watching all the time, why couldn’t I see you?”
“The Evil Knight’s smoke hurt your eyes. You haven’t been able to see properly for some time,” replied the Wizard, “But I have good news. I’ve got something for you!”
 
            He slid a pair of glasses onto her face.
“There,” he said, proudly, “cute as a button. Now you’ll be able to see more clearly. You’ll have to clean them when they get dirty, otherwise you won’t see well. Oh – and I almost forgot.”  
From inside his robe, he pulled out a present.
“I’m sorry I didn’t say hello on your birthday,” said the Wizard, handing her the box, “you looked like you were having fun.”
The girl opened the present. Inside was a walkie-talkie – identical to the first.
 
“Wherever you are, and at any time, when you talk on this radio, I will hear you. Because I have the other one, and it’s always switched on.”
The White Wizard showed her the radio on his belt.
           
The girl hugged him.
“Thank you, White Wizard!” She said.
“Now run along and play,” he said, “your friends are here with buckets and spades.”
She dashed off.  
           
            They spent the day making sandcastles. In the weeks that followed, the girl painted, sculpted, whittled, danced, and sang. The White Wizard and Barnabas took her walking by the ocean every day. They helped her fight the Black Cloak, which bothered her less and less until one day, it vanished completely.
 
“It’s gone!” Barked Barnabus, happily.
“That cloak will come back one day,” warned the White Wizard.
“That’s OK,” said the girl, taking his hand, “I will be ready for it.”
 
THE END        
 
Author’s Questions for Reviewers:
-I’m having trouble coming up with a suitable title – thoughts?
-Stylistically, the first part of the story includes quick-paced prose, and then later I expand into dialogue. Is the change too dramatic? Should I cut out some/all the dialogue to maintain style? For example, instead of dialogue:
OR (author’s note: here’s an alternative form to the dialogue)
Short version:
-On Thursday, Mommy yelled at the girl for burning peanut-butter cookies. The whole house smelled like smoke. But Barnabas liked her cookies. He ate them all up – even the burned ones. Then he nudged the back door open with his head. The smoke slithered out.
 
-At which points did I lose your attention in the story?
-How many questions do I need to answer in this story, and how many can I leave open-ended for readers to think about (there’s a lot of mystery surrounding the White Wizard, why he left, and why the nightmares/knight/black cloak started)?
-Should I give the girl a name, or is it best left out?
-Lastly, is the story too preachy? I’m not entirely happy with the last scene with the White Wizard and how that worked out in the end. A friend recommended cutting out the White Wizard and the Knight completely, and instead include more about a traumatic event that caused the nightmares in the first place, but I don’t want to do that because a) I like the Good/Evil dynamic, and the character of the White Wizard (even though it needs work) and b) I don’t want to make the story too dark if kids are going to read it.
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